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'Onion Field' killer dies in Calif. prison

10:24 AM, Aug 13, 2012   |    comments
Gregory Powell, aka "The Onion Field" Killer (photo taken Aug. 6, 2012)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Gregory Powell, who was convicted of killing a Los Angeles police officer during an infamous kidnapping that inspired Joseph Wambaugh's true-life crime novel "The Onion Field," has died in a California prison. He was 79.

The Department of Corrections says Powell died at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville on Sunday.

Powell and co-defendant, Jimmy Lee Smith were convicted of abducting Officer Ian Campbell and partner Officer Karl Hettinger from a Hollywood street on March 6, 1963, during a traffic stop.

Powell pulled a gun on Campbell and disarmed the officers, then he and Smith drove them to an onion field near Bakersfield where Powell shot Campbell in the face. Hettinger escaped.

The crimes were documented in the 1973 book "The Onion Field" and the 1979 film.

The Associated Press

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